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Lottery Scams

Lottery scams are unfortunately common around the world, with scammers using evolving tactics to try and trick innocent victims into parting with their money.

If you believe you have received a lottery scam – whether it's via post, email, social media, phone call or SMS message – you should not respond with any personal or financial details.

There are a few sure signs that you have received a scam, including (but not limited to):

  • Receiving a message/letter/email that claims to be from a lottery official, containing numerous spelling and grammatical errors
  • Receiving correspondence that contains multiple lottery organisation logos and false signatures
  • Being pressured into disclosing personal and/or financial information to the scammer in a hurry – this is a common tactic to intimidate victims into acting without having chance to speak to others to debate whether or not it is genuine
  • Being told that you have won a prize but need to pay some form of 'release fee' in order to receive your winnings
  • Receiving correspondence that begins with "Dear Winner" or "Dear Customer"
  • Poor quality graphics/imagery and photocopies hastily put together to try and appear genuine
  • Emails coming from free webmail addresses (such as @hotmail, @outlook, @live, @yahoo etc.) – official emails would always come from an email address under the domain of a lottery operator

No lottery operator would ever contact you in the ways described above.

The most important thing to remember is that if you have not bought a lottery ticket (or won a free ticket as a result of a previously purchased ticket), it is impossible to win a prize.

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Top tip: If you have received a potential scam and have sent your financial details in response, you should contact your bank immediately to inform them of what has happened.

Different Types of Scams

There are multiple different ways in which a scam can present itself, and some can be more convincing than others. Take a look at the types of scams brought to our attention most often.

SMS Message Scams

SMS message scams are increasingly common. Scammers are able to make a text message look legitimate easily, so it’s important to be cautious if you receive a message that tells you you’ve won a prize.

If you are expecting an SMS notification relating to a win, this is different. Some websites and organisations may offer SMS alerts in the event of a win, however this is something you would likely have to opt-in to when creating your account. If you haven’t created an account anywhere and specified that you’d like to receive SMS alerts, it is most likely a scam.

You should never tap any links in messages that you receive that you are cautious of. If there is a chance that you think the message is genuine, you should contact the lottery operator that you believe to have sent the message, to ask them if it’s genuine.

If you are not expecting a message, it is likely a scam. Some examples include messages that tell you that you have won a number of “free tickets” and that you need to respond with certain details to receive them. This is not a genuine lottery operation and you should never agree to buy tickets in this way, as they likely do not exist.

Email Scams

One of the long-running types of scam is the Email scam. These can come in many forms and, depending on the type of scam, they can certainly appear genuine.

The safest thing to do if you are concerned that you’ve received a fraudulent email is to not click or follow any links within the email. No matter how legitimate they may appear, the safest thing to do is to contact the lottery operator that the email has allegedly come from to check if it is genuine.

If you receive an email that tells you you’ve won a prize and then asks you to fill out numerous fields of information, it is a scam. No official lottery operator would operate in this way. A genuine lottery would contact you using the contact details you provided when creating your account and arrange a prize payment appointment, if you had indeed won a prize. If you don’t have an online lottery account, any emails telling you that you’ve won a prize online are fake.

If you have received a scam email, it is recommended that you block the sender to prevent future emails from them. Do not send any details to a scammer.

Social Media Scams

Perhaps the more wide-reaching types of scams can come from Social Media. This is due to them being easy to share, and the vast number of profiles and accounts that scammers can try their luck with.

Receiving a message on social media from someone claiming to be an ‘agent’ of a lottery organisation, or from a business page with very few followers and a few suspicious-looking posts, is cause for caution. Under no circumstances would a lottery operator ask their staff to contact users from personal accounts – if you receive a message stating such, it is a scam.

National Lotteries around the world are regulated and licensed, which means there are certain methods and procedures when they need to contact customers.

Lottery operators are highly unlikely to contact users out of the blue on social media, unless they are running promotions or contests that you enter via social media. In addition, if you message an official lottery page with an enquiry, then you can normally expect a response – this is not a scam. Most official lottery pages on social media have some kind of verification tick or badge to show that they are who they say they are.

Telephone Scams

There are a couple of different types of common lottery scams via telephone, both of which can be daunting.

Being Informed of a "Win" by Phone

Similar in nature to all other types of scam, telephone scammers often try to overwhelm victims by informing them about their "wins" and quickly leading on to requesting details from you to "arrange payment of the prize".

No lottery operator would ask for banking details over the phone. If you had genuinely won a jackpot prize, an official lottery operator would have to go through validation procedures with you, and they would most likely arrange a prize payment appointment in person (depending on the lottery operator and their procedures).

If you receive such a call and are being pressured to provide details, hang up the call. Blocking these numbers should prevent them from contacting you again.

Being Offered Discount/Bundles of Lottery Tickets by Phone

An increasingly common type of scam involves scammers phoning victims and informing them that they have the option (or have qualified) to buy multiple lottery tickets at a reduced price, or for the price of one. This is a scam.

No lottery operator would attempt to sell tickets over the phone. You should never attempt to buy tickets over the phone, as there are no tickets – it is purely an attempt to gain personal and/or financial details from you.

Some scammers have become more sophisticated in their fraudulent operations by creating or copying official-looking websites. The reason behind this is to reassure victims over the phone that it is genuine, as they will provide you with a web address to visit, which at first glance will appear official.

Depending on the scammer and their operations, if they have managed to acquire your name and phone number, they may direct you to a “Winners” page on the fake website, which would list your name, in an attempt to convince you that it is genuine. Again, no lottery operator would publish details of winners before they had in fact been verified as the winners, and only if the winner opted to go public.

As always, the safest thing to do if you receive a phonecall stating that you have won free lottery tickets is to hang up the call and block the number.

Impersonation of Jackpot Winners

These types of scams typically come around soon after a big jackpot has been won and the winner has opted to go public with their win.

Unfortunately this type of scam can come in many forms, such as email, SMS and social media. It typically involves a scammer pretending to be a lottery winner, using images of them and a fabricated story about how they have won the jackpot and want to share it with a number of people on social media, and so on.

If you receive a message from someone claiming to be a lottery jackpot winner, it is most likely a scam. Unless you know the person who has won a jackpot and they are genuinely offering to share their winnings with you, it is unfortunately a scam.

Direct Mail/Postal Scams

While these types of scam are less common, they do still exist and they can be equally as daunting as any other kind of lottery scam.

Direct mail scams typically involve a letter in the post, which often contain a number of lottery logos (which are usually poorly edited/stretched), while appearing poor in quality (sometimes even photocopied) and often have numerous grammatical errors. They can often include words such as 'International Lottery' 'Worldwide lottery' 'Microsoft lottery' among others. In some instances they also combine different countries to make it appear like a collaboration, such as "USA UK International Sweepstake" or something along those lines.

It is highly unlikely that a lottery operator would opt to contact you via post in the event of a genuine win, however if you are in any doubt, you should contact your lottery operator for confirmation. If the letter claims to be from an international lottery, or an operator that you have not heard of and have not played through, it is a scam.

The common theme that runs alongside all types of lottery scam is that if you have not bought a lottery ticket, you cannot win a prize.